A very special Birthday Cake

Wondering what that picture is above right?

It’s cake, so let’s get that OUT OF THE WAY.

It’s also a very special cake.

Let’s just call it a “preview” for the “final” reveal at the end of the post.

A background story first…

Tomorrow’s is the little man (not anymore) birthday, which meant that our house became birthday party central over the weekend.  Mr. D (what we call him) decided he was old enough to have a grown up birthday, which involved four friends, lots of food, video games, movies, a bunch of sleeping bags and a full camp out in our living room and cake.

Take it from a ten year old again to know the simple things in life.

I digress,

When we were discussing the food, he simply asked for pizza and cake.  When I asked him what type of cake, I was expecting for him to come up with one of the many complicated cakes that I have baked over the last year, for a almost a ten year old that kids has a sophisticate palate – but, I was surprise when our conversation took a turn…

“The almond cake”, he said.

“Which one? Remember I make two, the one that has the toasted almonds on top, or the powdered sugar?”

“The one with the white stuff” (don’t you love the mind of a nine ten year old?).

So the almond cake with the white stuff won.

But, of course, I just could not served it plain, which is just as good but, this was a birthday, and a big one too, he was entering the “double” digits here – Mr. D, needed a dress up cake.  So I decided that it was time that I put all of that fancy reading and classes about cake decorating into practice. 

What to do? What to do?

My first thought was to continue the theme of the party, which was “bouncing” – part of the event was taking the “boys” to a local trampoline arena, where they are fitted with funny booties, a hat and given free rain to bounce/jump around like super-fly!  When I created the invitation that was the main part of it, with a whimsy twist, hence the bouncing owls, and I wanted to use it on the cake as well to tied it all in.

My first thing was to plan.

Which involved making list (you know how I love to make lists!) of ingredients and equipment and then the steps I needed in order to end up with what I had envision in my head.

I felt like those professional bakers on TV, which draws the cake on a sheet of paper and then put notes and stuff all over it. 

I thought it was all bluff and stuff…

I was wrong, it actually works to keep you in track.

Seeing it on paper, made me see the steps that I needed to do more clearly, which also made me more organized and plan my timeframe better as well.  There was going to be baking the cake, covering it with a crumb coat, storing it to chill it, coloring the fondant, cutting and shaping the characters… and any “other” issue I could run into - I was flying by the seat of my pants on this one, I needed to give myself plenty of “buffers”.  I also choose to use a combination of fondant and buttercream to help me decorate the whole thing and to not make it so difficult.

My plan looked like this:

The next thing was to space this out into a couple of days, so I would not go crazy.  I needed the cake to be fully decorated by Saturday. I started on Thursday by first baking the almond cake using David Lebovitz recipe.  Wrapped it up and placed on the refrigerator overnight to chill.  Then on Friday, I started on the decoration.  I decided not to make my own fondant, but after reading and taking my fellow baker’s Faithy advice, I bought the Duff Goldman fondant brand that I found in my local Michael’s store.  I then made sure that I had the following links up on my computer, just in case I ran into any issues: Cake Central, baking 911, I am Baker and My cake school.  I like to say they were my lifelines going into this.

Then I got cracking.  I started by covering the cake in a crumb coating of buttercream – I made this one and then place the cake in the refrigerator to get nippy and set the buttercream.

Next up was coloring the fondant.  Using DUFF fondant was pretty easy.  When I took it out of the package it was pretty hard and I had a “oh-oh” moment, until I read the instructions where he recommends softening it in the microwave. After doing that; it was a breeze to work with.  I stared by coloring the bits that I needed for the owl.  I ran into a mental block in how to come up with brown – I just could not remember – Enter lifeline one, calling up baking 911, which has a great tutorial of what colors to mix to get different color combinations. Then I tackled the blue for the cake and let me tell you, mixing colors into fondant = VERY HARD WORK.

Once I finish coloring all of my pieces of fondant, I was ready to assemble the cake.

Covering the cake was not difficult at all.  I got to say, DUFF fondant was very easy to work with.  It rolled like a dream and went into the cake very smoothly.  Next up was composing the owl.  I had cut out the body of the owl to match that of the invitation, so on my computer I made the owl a bit bigger and printed it in stock paper. Then with exacto knife cut it out.  Then I placed my cutout template on my brown rolled fondant and trace it around and voila, owl body - done!.  Then using combinations of cutters that I had, I cut out the rest of the shapes out as well.  I decided to use buttercream colored in black (easier than the fondant) to do the eyes and the beak.

It went from this:

To this: 

Then it was a matter of using buttercream once more to pipe the jump/bouncing tracks around the cake.  I originally wanted to create different color party hats around the side of the cake, but instead used different size and color circles instead.  And I was really happy how it turned out. The final cake ended looking like this:

Not bad right?  Here is another closer look:

While its not perfect, -I could have finish off and perfected some stuff,  I was really happy (and a bit proud) that I was able to transfer my mental vision to the cake. 

Everyone loved it and thought it was “cute” and “creative”.  Even the other four boys, which was the highest compliments I could have received.

And like everything in my baking adventures, I learned some very important things: 

  • It was work - A lot of work.
  • Tone arms! - lots of rolling, kneeding took place.
  • Decorating tips, totally work as shape cutters. (money saving tips!)
  • TO PLAN AHEAD is a guarantee to have a successful product at the end.
  • Make your drawings on paper first – it goes a long way to help you during the project and keeps you organized.
  • Fondant is not scary.
  • Coloring fondant IS SCARY.
  • Color light, the next day that baby color hue will be bright as in REALLY BRIGHT and deep.
  • Buy pre-color fondant for the next time – worth it.
  • Lifelines are your friends.

Never underestimate the “proud” feeling when the birthday boy shouts out “it’s the best cake EVER!” 

And last but not least…

Huge and I mean HUGE respect to all those cake decorators out there that spend hours upon hours to bring smiles to every single occasion that calls for cake.

I may give you some competition guys. *wink*.